Toews, Kruger score in 3rd as Blackhawks clinch playoff spot with 3-1 victory over Canucks

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CHICAGO — Joel Quenneville loves to tinker with Chicago's lines, and it looks as if the coach has found a productive combination in Marcus Kruger, Andrew Desjardins and Teuvo Teravainen.

Just in time, too.

Kruger had a goal and an assist, and the Blackhawks clinched a playoff spot when their new-look fourth line accounted for two scores in a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.

"If you can get production from all four lines, that's something we want to do here," Kruger said. "You have to do that to go a long way in the playoffs."

Teravainen scored in the first and Jonathan Toews had a tiebreaking goal in the third as the Blackhawks (47-24-6) remained one point back of St. Louis for second in the loaded Central Division. Corey Crawford made 34 saves in Chicago's third straight win.

"I think we're more focused on playing good hockey, playing the right way," Crawford said. "I think if you do that, the wins will come, the points will come. I think we did that tonight."

Derek Dorsett scored for Vancouver (45-28-5), which was coming off consecutive wins at St. Louis and Nashville. Eddie Lack finished with 35 stops.

"I think our energy level should have been greater," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. "For whatever (reason), we weren't at the top and I think we battled hard and stayed in it, but we just couldn't pull it out."

Lack has carried the load in goal since Ryan Miller injured his knee on Feb. 22 against the New York Islanders. Willie Desjardins said Miller will rejoin the team Friday in Vancouver, but he is unsure if he will be ready to play before the end of the regular season.

"He's not ready to play for a while, but it's good that he's back on the ice and practicing," Desjardins said. "That's a real good sign for us."

The teams were tied at 1 when Marian Hossa redirected Johnny Oduya's shot off the post, and Toews was there to poke it home at 8:09. It was Toews' third goal in the last four games and No. 26 on the season.

"I'm not sure if Toews got a stick on it or not, but I mean, it came into the net pretty hard, so I think he did it," Lack said. "It's just an unfortunate play."

The Canucks almost had a quick response, but Crawford made a great stop on Nick Bonino, drawing chants of "Co-rey! Co-rey!" from the crowd. Crawford also denied a streaking Yannick Weber before Toews' tiebreaking goal, with a crestfallen Weber skating off with his head down.

"He had the big, big stop at 1-1, and a couple after that when we had the lead," Quenneville said. "So, he's been great all year."

Kruger finished the scoring at 10:31, beating Lack with a nifty backhand for his seventh goal.

Chicago plays again Friday night in Buffalo, and then hosts St. Louis on Sunday night. The Blackhawks and Blues also play next Thursday in St. Louis.

"It's a fun time of the year," Teravainen said. "We need every point we can get."

The Blackhawks jumped in front in the first period when their fourth line continued their recent strong play in their third straight game together. Kruger got open in front and was stopped by Lack, but stayed with it and fed Teravainen for the rookie's fourth goal at 6:51.

Teravainen had a whopping eight shots in 13 1/2 minutes in Chicago's 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.

The Blackhawks stayed in front until the final two minutes of the period, when defenseman Michal Rozsival made a costly mistake that Dorsett turned into his seventh goal of the season. Rozsival's pass went right to Dorsett, who skated to his right before sending a shot over Crawford's right shoulder at 18:46.

NOTES: The Canucks won their first two games against the Blackhawks this season. ... Blackhawks F Patrick Kane (broken collarbone) participated in the morning skate. He also practiced with the team Wednesday in a white non-contact jersey. ... The Blackhawks agreed to a two-year contract with college free agent Tanner Kero, a forward from Michigan Tech who will report to Rockford of the American Hockey League. The 22-year-old Kero had 20 goals and 26 assists in 41 games in his senior year with the Huskies.


Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

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